Joseph Madzimure Senior Reporter
It is illegal to force workers to go on unpaid leave during the Covid-19 lockdown unless this is done through collective bargaining and is agreed by the concerned employees, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima, has said.
Measures contrary to the agreed terms of employment should be mutually agreed, he said in a statement to mark Workers’ Day, yesterday.
“There should be no unlawful terminations or procedural retrenchments during the lockdown period,” said Minister Mavima.
“My ministry stands to provide technical advice on issues regarding workplace measures to cope with Covid-19.”
The ministry has dispatched officers to upgrade joint inspections across the country with representatives of the workers and employers to ensure that fair labour standards are observed during the lockdown and that general compliance with Covid-19 measures are adhered to at all workplaces operating during the lockdown.
“We welcome information from stakeholders on specific establishments, sectors and issues that our inspectorate should focus on as they perform their duties,” said Minister Mavima.
“The stakeholders have a role to perform by being ears and eyes of our inspectorate and we will respond swiftly to any such reports. I also expect my officers to execute their duties professionally. Any acts of corruption must be reported for the law to take its course.
“Let us point out that works councils and the national employment councils (NEC) remain effective engagement platforms for workers and employers to engage and agree on measures that take into consideration respective peculiarities of establishments and NECs as we craft workplace measures to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.
“We should in these engagements, keep at the back of our minds the dictates of fundamental principles and rights at the work place as enshrined in our Labour Act as they are sacrosanct and should be respected at all times.’’ The Tripartite Negotiating Forum, said Minister Mavima, is expected to engage and review the situation regarding the period of May and beyond as the Covid-19 situation evolves.
“It is very clear that the Covid-19 pandemic has challenged us to reflect on our work practices as the need to embrace new forms of work that allow workers to work from home and away from the employer’s premises,” he said.
“Indeed, we need to engage in conversation to ensure that we are ready for the future of work and the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”
Minister Mavima noted that industrial performance in the country remained depressed.
Meanwhile, Sadc joined the rest of the world in celebrating Workers’ Day.
In a statement, Sadc said on May 1, the international community commemorates international Workers’ Day to recognise the importance and contribution of workers in development, and to promote workers’ rights.
“This year, we celebrate the International Workers Day under unusual and extremely difficult circumstances due to the challenges and hardships emanating from Covid-19 pandemic which has led to unprecedented loss of jobs and livelihoods,” said the regional bloc.
“The international Labour Organisation has so far estimated that up to 25 million jobs will be lost globally as a result of the extreme measures, but necessary in containing the spread of Covid-19.”
Sadc urged governments working with other stakeholders, including the private sector and civil societies, to continue strengthening health systems and to guarantee the provision of safe and healthy working conditions for those on the frontline.
Sadc was confident that member states will continue to implement Covid-19 response measures that will protect the labour markets, jobs and incomes, support vulnerable workers in the informal economy and facilitate the economic recovery and social economic stability.